You've decided that it's time to transition to assisted living—but choosing the best VA assisted living facility can be difficult.
You may not even be sure if assisted living is right for you. Here are some things to consider.
If you don’t know whether you’re ready to make the move into assisted living, it’s time to take a look at your current living situation. Assisted living facilities provide more independence than a nursing home, but give you the help you need for daily self-care while surrounding you with a community of other people your own age. If you’re feeling stressed and frustrated trying to take care of yourself at home, or if your family members are having trouble giving you all the help you need, or if you find yourself feeling lonely and isolated, finding an assisted living facility may be your best solution. You may also need to make the switch to assisted living if you feel unsafe at home or if you’re constantly worried about slipping and falling without anyone nearby to help you. If you find yourself forgetting to take crucial medication, an assisted living facility can give you the security of an on-site medical team to take care of you. Although home care is an option, if you don’t want to move and don’t need much care, assisted living facilities give you a social network as well as the benefits of nursing, housekeeping, security, and more—very important if you have trouble with both taking care of yourself medically and doing work around the house.
When you’re choosing the best VA assisted living facility for you, think about what healthcare needs you have or that you expect to have in the future. If you’re a relatively healthy older adult who simply wants to be in the company of other seniors, a facility with minimal healthcare support should be fine. If you have more intensive healthcare needs, you may need a facility with staff members who are specifically trained in meeting those needs. Are there registered nurses on staff who can help you if you need regular medical care? Are the rooms easily navigable with your wheelchair or walker, if you have one? Are there grab bars in the bathrooms and other areas to make navigation easy? It’s also important to think about what needs you may have in the future. If you have a condition that may worsen or if you have a family history of a serious ailment, take that into consideration when you’re choosing your assisted living facility.
When you tour an assisted living facility, think about how it makes you feel. Does the staff seem friendly, smiling and paying attention to you, or do they seem rushed without much time for you or anyone else? Are the residents happy? Is the facility clean and well-maintained? How do you like the food? This is going to be your home, so it’s important that you feel happy and comfortable here. You should also look at the activities and tours that the facility offers. Are you excited by the options at movie night? When you look at the clubs and activities, do you immediately start picking out the ones that you want to join? Or does it seem like a schedule of events that would be great for someone else, but not for you?
The staff is of the utmost importance in choosing the best VA assisted living facility to you. It’s important to spend time with the staff and see how friendly they are and how comfortable you feel with them, but it’s equally important to get hard data about how the staff works. How many staff members are there per resident? What are their duties? How do the staffing patterns change at night? You need to know that if you have some kind of accident during the night, you’ll be just as well taken care of as if it had happened during the day. The staff should also have training. Although not every staff member needs to be a nurse, they should all have basic training in areas such as first aid, emergency care, medication administration, mental health, CPR and residents’ rights.
Always read the fine print in the contract when you’re weighing the assisted living cost and choosing the best VA assisted living facility. Some facilities will give you a flat monthly fee, which may cause you to pay more than necessary if you don’t need intensive care. Others may charge you individually for each service you use, which means you won’t pay much if you’re relatively independent but may lead to you overpaying if you have a range of medical and personal needs. According to Senior Homes, the average cost of assisted living in Virginia is $3,933 per month; if you’re paying more, does the place have amenities that seem worth the extra cost? If you’re paying less, is the facility cutting corners or have you found a genuine bargain? Keep in mind that a more expensive facility isn’t necessarily a better one. Sometimes, two facilities will have dramatically different prices with no real difference beyond a brand name or a zip code.
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